What is better? Manual or automatic? How do they work? Which one to choose? Why? This site is dedicated to unbiased information / pros and cons about these two types of transmissions. Don't forget to add your own thoughts at the end of the page.
If you are too lazy or don't have time to read all that's on this site here's the one sentence executive summary: manual transmission (MT)cars use less fuel and give you more control over the car but are less convenient, while automatic transmissions (AT) burn (a little) more gas, provide less control but they are easier to use.
Manual transmissions cost less than automatics to begin with. When you go to a car dealear you will notice that the stick-shift version of the same model is about a thousand bucks cheaper. Sometimes a thousand dollars seems like not not so much when it comes to buying a new car but forget about the car itself, think of what you can do with an extra $1000.
In the long run, manuals require less service, thus making maintenance cheaper too.
Any mechanic can tell you that working on a manual transmission is much easier than working with automatic gear boxes. So the repair costs for automatics are significantly higher.
Manuals - if properly operated - will go hundreds of thousands of kilometers without problems (well, you also need a good car). The lubricant needs to be replaced periodically but not as frequently as in automatics. (Some cars use special transmission fluids that do not need to be replaced at all.)
Standards are harder to drive. Say the North Americans. Huh. Ask a European taxi driver who talks to the dispatcher and zig-zags on narrow winding streets with three passangers chatting in the background. He will swear to the life of his mother that stick shifs are better.
With ATs, at stop lights you have to keep your foot on the brake pedal otherwise the start keeps rolling forward. Just how uncomfortable is that?
The main difference in operating a car with a stick shift vs. one with automatic trasmission is that you need to shift gears based on the vehicle's speed and this requires the use of the clutch pedal and the gear shift (stick). When the clutch pedal is depressed the clutch is disengaged - the engine and the transmission is separated. Gears can be selected at this time or the car can be stopped without stalling.
It's not depressing the clutch pedal that takes practice - releasing it requires practice to ensure a smooth start and gradual transition between gears once the vehicle is in motion. If the clutch pedal is not properly used the car will "jump-start" (much like an angry donkey) and often stall. Learning to control the clutch pedal is the single most frightening part of driving standards and many people become discouraged after a few unsuccessful trials. But once you learn how to use properly use your left foot to control the cluch-pedal the "muscle memory" becomes permanent and you won't forget it again - much like riding a bicycle.
Automatics also have a clutch except instead of a clutch pedal a torque converter is used to seperate the engine from the transmission - and it all happens automatically without the need of driver input. Speaking of driver input: manual enthusiasts need all their pride and discipline in traffic jams when they need to shift gears every minute for hours. (hint: if you commute in bad traffic, buy an automatic and forget about control- it's just not worth the stress driving a stick shift through traffic jams)